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About Zoe Whittall

Zoe Whittall

Zoe Whittall

Zoe Whittall is the author of the Lambda-award winning novel Holding Still for as Long as Possible, the novels The Middle Ground and Bottle Rocket Hearts, and the poetry books Precordial Thump, The Emily Valentine Poems, and The Best Ten Minutes of Your Life. She edited the short fiction anthology Geeks, Misfits & Outlaws and has appeared in the anthologies Persistence: All Ways Butch & Femme, Brazen Femme: Queering Femininity, and Baby Remember My Name: An Anthology of New Queer Writing.

Posts By Zoe Whittall

Femme: In Praise of Higher Creative Expectations

May 5, 2012 |

I am disappointed that most of the performers present work that doesn’t feel new or at all nuanced.

Eighteen years ago one of my first dyke friends was combing the knots out of my long, blonde hair while I sat on her bed reading one of her self-published comic books. She was the first butch I ever met. It was 1994 or so, a time when identity was the topic of every political conversation and my wishy-washy bisexuality was confounding to her.  Out of nowhere she put down the brush and said: You know what you are, Zoe? You’re a femme.

I welcomed the word. It didn’t seem limiting, and meant I could wear a push up bra and didn’t have to wear ugly, utilitarian clothing to prove I fit in. In the weeks that followed, I learned that it meant that I could identify with femme writers who had a specific queer cultural history – WTF – this was an amazing realization. I bought Minnie Bruce Pratt’s S/he and an anthology by Leslea Newman, sliding them next to books by other radical authors like Acker, Schulman, Califia, and Feinberg. The femme writers I encountered in anthologies and punk rock bands were tough, take-no-shit role-models of femininity – and femininity had always been weak or maligned by both the wider culture and the feminism I grew up with. I felt like finally, I could be a part of this new community that seemed intimidating. I wrote some terrible poetry that featured fishnets, lipstick, combat boots and fisting. But I was only 18-years old, and in retrospect this seems cute. That moment of feeling like I belonged was very meaningful to me at the time, when choosing to be queer felt dangerous and potentially powerful.